Family mediation is where an independent, professionally trained mediator helps you and the person that you are otherwise in dispute with (be it an ex-partner, a grandparent or other person) to work out an agreement about issues such as:
- Arrangements for children after separation (for example, to consider issues such as custody, contact, holiday arrangements and so on).
- Child maintenance payments (for example, Child Support including but not limited to school fees and education fees).
- Finances (for example, what to do with your previously owned joint property, other capital assets, any savings, any pension provision not to mention how any joint or otherwise accumulated debts of the family are to be met).
- Family mediation can also be used to help with the other issues that you might face (for example, your children keeping in touch with their grandparents, stepfamilies, or in-laws).
Mediation can also be helpful when arrangements you’ve made before need to change, particularly as your children grow up.
If you are unable to reach any agreement via mediation or by any other alternative means, the Family Court – upon any application made – will consider and make a final decision which ultimately you will need to stick to even if one or both of you feel unhappy about those decisions for whatever reason.
Mediation can then help you to stay in control. No-one including the mediator will make you do anything against your wishes.
The mediator will help you find a solution which works for you both and explain how you can make any agreement reached legally binding.
It is now expected that before any person makes an application to the Family Court that the parties have tried and considered mediation beforehand. The Family Court can refuse to hear your case until you have done this or can adjourn the case for mediation to be attempted in cases whereby the judge takes the view that mediation may be the most suitable forum for any dispute to be resolved.
Most people who start mediation will reach an agreement without having ever to then incur the expense of going to court. However, mediation is not always suitable in every case.
In the case of a marriage or civil partnership ending, you will need to apply to the court for a divorce or judicial separation to do this, but you will not usually have to attend a hearing and mediation in such instances, although a mediation may prove beneficial to address any issue arising in relation to the finances and property.